Short Stories, Tale Africa

Never again (1)

By Mpuga Rukidi:

Everyone was quiet. You could drop a pin and hear it make all roundabouts before it decided to settle, and be quiet like the rest of the people inside the derelict, 1923 erected sub county headquarters-cum courtroom. You could feel and touch the tension.

It was the day judgment was to be delivered. Everyone sat spellbound, like they were watching the lunar eclipse. I was only a 9 year old girl at the time and was not supposed to be in court. But I had somehow found my way in. Justice had to be done and I had to see it being done. The accused was in. The judge, with his grey wig, looked like the ram shackled pictures in my drawing book. Everyone had their eyes firmly fixed on the accused. But few knew what he had done, done to my grandmother. Now the bitter memories run through my mind faster than the waters of Nakivubo Channel on a rainy evening.

School was to open in about five days. Grandma had just finished ironing the spider design in my blue uniform dress. Then suddenly a knock on the door. It was unmistakably that of a man; three firm knocks separated by regular spaces of about three thirds of a second. Silence. Then a firm, muscular kick introduced Jimmy, his large, 6 ft 3 frame towering over the two of us. He must have done extra push ups before he came to torment his latest victim. What happened next is something I have never wanted to think about but which I, sadly, thanks to the horror of the marks it left on grandma and I, can never forget.

When he grabbed grandma by the throat, I shouted. Then I blacked out, literally, for that made me the recipient of the heaviest kick that a 9 year old little girl could ever receive. When I returned to consciousness, I saw Jimmy's face and tried to run, but I couldn't. Then it hit me: I was in hospital. Later, I was to learn that grandma could never tell me what happened to her. It was too much for my little one, she often said. But I was to gather from what had been said about her ordeal, and the facts as stated by the ugly, wig covered judge on that day in court, that she had been raped multiple times and was only so lucky to be alive. She had bled nearly all her blood, entrails were about to follow suit.

It was the worst thing to happen to her in the 70 years she had been a guest of mother earth. Enough was enough, she convinced herself. Her plan was simple: about 20 sleeping pills would do the trick. What was the essence of life without living? If that is what life after 70 meant, she was better off booking a first class ticket to her maker. And one could not live for another seventy years after seventy.

I spent about a week in hospital. Hallucinations became hallucinations. I always saw Jimmy coming to do the same “bad manners” to me. I developed a solidified abhorrence for all men with broad chests and square shoulders. I was hidden away from grandma in the meantime. Everyone said you never trust a person in her state of mind with a small child. She may kill her, not out of revenge the way Medea kills her two children in Euripides' play, but out of love. I was kept away for a while.

Meanwhile she was recovering. She did not tell anyone what she planned to do with her life. But she needed to see me first. The next time I saw her, about two weeks after the unforgettably horrible attack, grandma was not the same: about 10 kilograms had deserted her, with the resultant effect a perfect image of a slim victim. I have never wanted to look at a sick old woman since.

After a week with her, her condition became even worse; she wept daily about what had befallen her, how she had been infected with the deadly slim and how she was going to die and leave her granddaughter.

Meanwhile the sleeping pills were ready, twenty five in number. She had made up her mind to kiss the damn earth, and its Jimmy, goodbye.

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